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India today announced that it will eliminate the HFC-23 gas, a potent greenhouse gas with high global warming potential, as part of its commitment to combat the threat emanating from climate-damaging HFCs.
The major commitment was made by Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave, who is in Kigali to attend the high-level segment of the conference on Montreal Protocol.
Giving the go-ahead for releasing the order for incinerating the HFC-23 by producers of HCFC-22 gas, Dave said "HFC-23 gas, a potent greenhouse gas with global warming potential 14,800 times more than CO2 is produced as a by-product of HCFC-22 manufacturing, and if vented out in environment, it is a threat to the environment".
The minister clarified that the companies have to internalise the cost of this environmental externality, and create sufficient storage facility to take care of down time and run the incinerators.
It is noted that some HCFC-22 producers even in developed world are not handling the HFC-23 in most professional manner, a statement said.
A N Jha, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), said this decision of India at this juncture fortifies the determination and commitment of the country on climate issues.
"This will have a positive impact on the discussions on HFCs and will make the governments and producers of HCFC-22 in both developed and developing countries to think on emulating this practice," Jha said.
The government said it is now hard for the teams from countries which are producers of HCFC-22 to negotiate for funding from Multilateral Funds for creating facility for incineration or financial support for incinerating the gas.
Signing the orders, Manoj Kumar Singh, joint secretary in the MoEF and lead Indian negotiator, highlighted the fact that even with complete phase out of HCFCs for usage as refrigerants under the Montreal Protocol that its production will continue for feedstock purposes.
"This production for feedstock purpose will reach 1 million tonnes at its peak, so ensuring the incineration of HFC-23 being produced as by-product will ensure an avoidance of more than 444 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent globally," Singh said.
This is a major break away from the concept of financial assistance for every action on environment, in which India has shown the lead, he added.
(Reopens FGN 22)
Welcoming the government decision, Indian climate experts said the global warming potential of HFC-23 is 14,800 times more than that of CO2, making it an extremely potent greenhouse gas.
New Delhi-based Advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment said that the legislation requires five Indian companies which manufacture HCFC-22 to capture and then incinerate HFC-23 so that its release into the atmosphere is eliminated.
It said this will potentially avoid emissions of HFC-23 equivalent to 100 million tonne of CO2 over the next 15 years.
"With this government order to control the emissions of HFC-23, India is sending a strong signal to the world that it is serious about the climate change issue," said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).